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At PHPN, we believe that health is a basic human right and we fight for UHC in Kurdistan. Through advocacy and outreach activities, our team works tirelessly each day to contribute to a better health system in Kurdistan Region of Iraq. 

 
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Here at PHPN, we advocate health as a human right. Since our founding in 2020, we have been determined to make an impact on the health of the public in Kurdistan. The core of our efforts is to achieve Universal Health Coverage in Kurdistan. Through all of our endeavors we hope to, among other objectives, to end corruption in Kurdistan's health system.

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PUBLIC HEALTH PROTECTION NETWORK (PHPN) SENDS A LETTER TO UK'S FCDO

June 9, 2019

Dear colleagues, 
We would like to provide some feedback about statements made recently by Ambassador Stephen Hickey. His Excellency made those statements during a policy debate on the UK strategic priorities in Iraq. The Middle East Research Institute (MERI) organised that policy debate on May 4th 2021. 
The analysis that Ambassador Hickey has provided about the political, economic and social situation in Iraq was mostly accurate. We agree with the majority of his accurate and thoughtful reflections. However, we would like to offer some insight into one particular aspect of his policy recommendations. 
We are particularly encouraged by the Mr Hickey’s statement that “The UK believes that a strong state needs a strong and vibrant civil society, which is key to prosperity and legitimate stability”. As a civil society group we are concerned with the increasingly difficult circumstances created for civil society to operate freely in Iraq and its Kurdistan region. 
However, we are concerned about broad and vague policy recommendations made with regards to the public sector and privatisation. Mr Ambassador states that “Iraq needs to reduce the size of its public employment and expenses, while enhancing the private sector and attracting investment.” He confidently follows by saying that “This is the answer for the growing dissatisfaction of its young people”. 
As a public health advocacy group, we respectfully question this policy recommendation and would like to debate it. 
We invite the ambassador to be more specific about which sectors of the society he recommends to be privatised. Does that include the health sector?  We shall be extremely disappointed if that would be the case. We are surprised that the country with one of the world’s largest health public sector (the NHS) is recommending privatisation of Iraq’s public institutions including the health sector. 
We argue that privatisation and marketisation of the health sector in Iraq and Kurdistan had disastrous consequences. 
First, the privatisation trend since 2003 has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the public health budget. Iraq spends less than 5% of its national government budget on health. That resulted in a significant lack of investment in the public health sector. One of the results of that policy was the recent fire in one of the COVID19 hospitals in Baghdad, just to give an example. On the system level, the lack of investment has resulted in problems with Iraq’s ability to progress toward achieving the SDGs, and as a result continued reliance on assistance from the UK and donors. We, therefore, argue that a reduction in the size and disinvestment in the public health sector would be detrimental in the long term to the interest of the UK. 
Second, the pulling forces of privatisation have resulted in a decrease in the number of the health workforce in public institutions. A large proportion of the health workforce in Iraq is engaging in dual practice (both in the private and public sector at the same time). That has resulted in a significant reduction of the time and energy that the already small health workforce give to the public sector. 
Third, privations in the health system have not only included an exponential rise in the size of the private health sector, but also have meant introducing private practices within the public sector. For example, the KRG has introduced what is known as the ‘semi-private’ system. According to this policy, patients have to pay private market prices for services they receive in public health institutions after 1 pm. This system has resulted in a significant increase in the out-of-pocket expenditure by Iraqis. We believe that this system, in addition to privatisation, has been one of the main causes of impoverishment in Iraq. 
Fourth, privatisation of the health sector was introduced without a parallel enhancement of the capacities of the government or market in regulation. The limited oversight and regulation of the private market has resulted in significant harm to the public. For example, there are vast amounts of medicines and other medical supplies that are smuggled to Iraq. Some of it, unfortunately, can potentially be used for terrorist activities. Also, as the BBC has reported recently, COVID19 vaccine was also smuggled to Iran. The lack of oversight and regulation has been, in some cases, deliberate, to allow politicians and political parties to profit from such smuggling and otherwise illegal export. 
Fifth, privatisation and market-friendly policies in Iraq have resulted in limiting and decreasing the fiscal space for the country. For example, taxes on tobacco and other harmful substances are minimal. That have resulted in extremely cheap prices for these substances which in turn encourages addiction to harmful substances. Also, such policies have undermined the fiscal space in the country. 
Sixth, the push for privatisation has resulted in a significant increase in corruption and corrupt practices in the health sector. We are witnessing public institutions being taken away from the public sector and abused for private gains. One example is the Kurdistan Children Hospital in Erbil which was built by a UK based charity with money donated by an oil company as part of their corporate social responsibility. That hospital was then taken over by a private Turkish company (Santelife) treating COVID19 patients for $10,000 a night. 
Finally, we are surprised that Mr Hickey is recommending privatisation of public institutions without suggesting any safeguards against corruption and abuse. This is particularly troubling given that the UK government’s excellent record on leading international efforts against corruption. 
We invite Mr Hickey to engage with us and other civil society groups and to debate some of those policy recommendations that he suggested about the privatisation of the health sector in Iraq and Kurdistan. We are willing to host Mr Hickey or other UK officials in an online roundtable to discuss these topics. We are also particularly interested in hosting officials from the NHS so that policy makers and professionals from Iraq would learn from how the UK manages its health system. 
Yours sincerely, 
Public Health Protection Network (Kurdistan) www.phpn.infohealth.network20@gmail.com">www.phpn.infohealth.network20@gmail.com

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LOCAL NON-PROFIT MAKES A SPLASH WITH SUMMER FUNDRAISER

June 9, 2019

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FROM IDEA TO REALITY: THE EVOLUTION OF PUBLIC HEALTH PROTECTION NETWORK (PHPN)

June 9, 2019

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1-ON-1 WITH PUBLIC HEALTH PROTECTION NETWORK (PHPN) CEO

June 9, 2019

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 PHPH CONDEMN REPORTS OF TORTURING ACTIVISTS IN KURDISTAN

June 9, 2019

We are extremely concerned about reports of torture against detained journalists and activists in Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). We demand that independent medical teams affiliated with international organisations investigate these claims.
Recently, The Court of Cassation in KRI uphold the 6 years prison sentence of three journalists and two civil rights activists from Badinan. Their 'crimes' were unfounded charges of "espionage and conspiracy to endanger national security." Those sentenced are Sherwan Sherwani, Guhdar Zebari, Eyaz Karam, Shivan Saeed, and Hariwan Essa.
During the court proceedings, the activists reported torture against them. The court dismissed these reports and did not offer the opportunity of medical examination and tests to confirm or refute those claims.
We are extremely concerned about the physical and mental health of those journalists and activists. We demand that the court offer an independent medical examination. 
Members of the PHPN are prepared to participate in such mission if allowed. We also call on international organisations and partners to offer medical teams to look into this matter urgently. 
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